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Guitar Inversions

This lesson is about chord inversions. First, we will let you know what an inversion is and then give you a couple of inversion shapes to practice.

In order to understand what an inversion is, you need to know what a root position chord is. A root position chord is simply a chord where the root note of the chord is the lowest note of the chord. An inversion is just a chord where any other note besides the root note of the chord is the lowest note of the chord.

Let’s look at an example. The notes in a G major chord are G, B, and D. If the lowest note in the G chord is a G note, you have a root position chord. If the lowest note in the G chord is a B or a D you have an inversion.

Now let’s look at the difference between a 1st inversion and a 2nd inversion chord. In our example, G is the root of the chord, B is the 3rd, and D is the 5th. If the 3rd of the chord is the lowest note, we call that a 1st inversion chord. If the 5th of the chord is the lowest note, we call that a 2nd inversion chord.

Make a root position G chord by placing your 3rd finger on the 5th fret of the 4th string, 2nd finger on the 4th fret of the 3rd string, and 1st finger on the 3rd fret of the 2nd string. The note you are playing with your 3rd finger is the lowest note of the chord and it is a G. This is a root position chord. Now take your 3rd finger off of the 4th string and keep your other two fingers in place. Lay your 1st finger over the 3rd fret of the 1st string while keeping the 3rd fret of the 2nd string fretted as well. You should have a little bar going across the 1st and 2nd strings with your 1st finger. Play these three notes. The lowest note should be the B that you are playing with your 2nd finger on the 4th fret of the 3rd string. Now you are playing a 1st inversion G major chord because the B, or 3rd of the chord, is the lowest note.

Learn about finger numbering and the string notes here!

In the example we add a 4 and 5 chord to the 1 chord in the key of G. These chords are a C major and a D major. We will be using 2nd inversion shapes for these chords. Again, that just means that the 5th of the chord is the lowest note. Put your 1st finger on the 1st fret of the 2nd string and play the top three strings. This is a C major chord and the lowest note is a G, the 5th of the C major chord. That makes this chord a 2nd inversion C major chord.

Place your 1st finger on the 2nd fret of the 3rd string, 2nd finger on the 2nd fret of the 1st string, and your 3rd finger on the 3rd fret of the 2nd string. Now play the top three strings again. This is a 2nd inversion D chord because the A note is the lowest note in the chord.

Play around with these inversions and see if you can come up with your own shapes. Knowing how to build chord inversions will help you to build your chord vocabulary and get to know the layout of the fretboard better.

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